Experimental effects of climate messages vary geographically

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Van Der Linden, S 
Mildenberger, M 
Marlon, JR 
Howe, PD 

Social science scholars routinely evaluate the efficacy of diverse climate frames using local convenience or nationally representative samples. For example, previous research has focused on communicating the scientific consensus on climate change, which has been identified as a ‘gateway’ cognition to other key beliefs about the issue6,7,8,9. Importantly, although these efforts reveal average public responsiveness to particular climate frames, they do not describe variation in message effectiveness at the spatial and political scales relevant for climate policymaking. Here we use a small-area estimation method to map geographical variation in public responsiveness to information about the scientific consensus as part of a large-scale randomized national experiment (n = 6,301). Our survey experiment finds that, on average, public perception of the consensus increases by 16 percentage points after message exposure. However, substantial spatial variation exists across the United States at state and local scales. Crucially, responsiveness is highest in more conservative parts of the country, leading to national convergence in perceptions of the climate science consensus across diverse political geographies. These findings not only advance a geographical understanding of how the public engages with information about scientific agreement, but will also prove useful for policymakers, practitioners and scientists engaged in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

4407 Policy and Administration, 4408 Political Science, 44 Human Society, 13 Climate Action
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Nature Climate Change
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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
MacArhur Foundation, Energy Foundation